Precious Ajibola, a graduate of Ibadan Polytechnic, was shocked when she got a mail from National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) on Sunday, July 25, asking her to report in Sokoto on Tuesday, July 27 for the orientation exercise.
A distraught Ajibola, who is based in Ibadan, said her parents could not afford to pay for her air travel, hence, had to go by road.
And Sokoto is about 16 hours. How would she meet the camp deadline?
She had to leave on July 26 by night bus after her parents struggled to raise money for her.
Tony Essien, a graduate of Lagos State University (LASU), also had a similar story to tell.
The 23-year old microbiology graduate was posted to Zamfara State and mandated to report at the camp on July 27.
Essien, who lamented the 48 hours notice, said with increased cases of insecurity, travelling at night on Nigerian roads, particularly, to violent-prone areas, is at high risk.
Raising funds at such short notice was also a problem. He was in dilemma of whether to defer the service or risk his life for the exercise.
Ibrahim Yusuf, who graduated from Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH), said there was no way he could have met the deadline of resuming in Jigawa at such short notice.
“I’ve been anxious to go for NYSC, but I’m missing it due to the short notice. I had hoped that I would be able to raise enough funds before going to camp but two days notice is too short,” Yusuf said.
Oluwaseun Olorunfemi, who graduated from University of Lagos (UNILAG), said he was posted to Kaduna, but did not go because of insecurity across the country.
It is not that using the road during the day is any safer. Bandits have invaded schools both in the dead of night and in broad daylight.
Besides, the flight fares in the country have gone up the roof. Flying in Nigeria is mostly for the affluent. Most Nigerians have never flown, as many live below poverty level. If anything, the NYSC was designed to unite Nigerians ‘body and soul.’ It is to broaden the enlightenment of graduates further.
FOR many decades, Nigerian youths have borne the brunt of disgraceful and sometimes dehumanising Federal Government policies. Students in higher institutions have often suffered; spending more years than necessary to graduate as a result of altercations on campus between the unions and government, with each one trying to hold the other by the jugular
Yet, struggling to make the best of a floundering education system, students have been accused of being lazy. In other circumstances, technocrats, headhunters and even politicians have described them as “unemployable graduates.”
The NYSC best demonstrate how badly Nigeria has dehumanised its promising young generation. In its recent announcement, it called on potential corps members to keep vigil for their call-up letters and report to various orientation camps within 48 hours or forfeit the slot.
According to the NYSC mobilisation time table for 2021 Batch B, notification and printing of call-up letters by potential corps members was scheduled for July 24 to 26, 2021. It is the same time slated for the delivery of manual call-up letters to institutions.
The potential corps members are expected to be in their respective orientation camps by July 27.
Many, however, have described the arrangement as unreasonable and agonising for the corps members-to-be.
More fundamental is the current state of the nation. Bandits have killed hundreds of Nigerians in a few months. Many more have been kidnapped for ransom. Travelling on Nigerian roads is like being in a kamikaze aircraft.
Also, plaguing the nation is abject poverty occasioned by rising rate of unemployment and hyper-inflation.
The combination of the aforementioned societal crises has conspired like the 10 plagues to thwart the desire of many Nigerian youths preparing to go for service.
NYSC has not helped matters by insisting that by July 27, graduates who had between July 24 and 26 to be in the orientation camp might be demanding something close to near-impossibility. For instance, a graduate from Abeokuta who did not get his call-up letter until the night of July 26 will be expected to be in the designated orientation camp stated in the letter, say Sokoto, Bauchi, Kebbi, or Gombe.
“If there are no direct flights to a far-flung state, a young graduate will have to travel through the labyrinth of bad roads in the night and shadows of unknown gunmen and bandits. Sometimes, the graduate’s fate is left in the hands of a drug-inspired, short-sighted reckless driver,” an angry Olorunfemi said, appealing to government to review the NYSC Act in a way that corps members would choose their states of preference.
It is criminal if a graduate did not make it to the orientation, the NYSC has always maintained, saying, “Any person who fails to report for service in the service corps as directed in the call-up letter and/or refuses to make himself available for service in the service corps shall be prosecuted in line with the provisions of Section 13 sub-section 19(a) and (b) of the NYSC Act, Cap. N84, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”
In its “Update on NYSC call-up letter” it added, “Also, any person who is not eligible to participate in the service corps or has been duly issued with a Certificate of National Service or Certificate of Exemption but so participates or attempts to so participate shall be prosecuted in line with Section 13 sub-section 2(a) and (b) of the NYSC Act, Cap, N84, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”
Giving the current potential corps members’ short notice to report to camp, NYSC is setting many young Nigerians up for failure but more than that to risk their lives amidst the continued deterioration of insecurity in the country. This is a waiting disaster if it is not already one, analysts said.
For instance, about 9,100 corps members were deployed to the troubled Northwest region amid rising insecurity and abduction of school children that had led to closure of schools in the area. The region comprises Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Kano, Sokoto, Kebbi and Jigawa states.
Apart from Northwest, other states that have experienced a spike in insecurity and abduction in recent times include, Benue, Niger, Kogi and Adamawa. Incidentally, most corps members are posted to schools for their primary assignment.
According to reports, in Zamfara State, between July 3 and 25, no fewer than 70 persons were killed and 178 others kidnapped, while in Kaduna, 198 persons were kidnapped and 119 others killed in the last four weeks.
In some council areas including Chikun, where 140 students of Bethel Baptist High School were kidnapped, there is tension everywhere, which has made the primary assignment to become agonising.
In the last one month, about seven soldiers were killed in Arewa, Kebbi State; while in Katsina State, two immigration officials were killed.
Also, in Hong, Adamawa State, Boko Haram, killed 24 persons on July 7, while in Plateau State; kidnappers killed two persons within the period.
On July 15, bandits killed two soldiers and kidnapped 20 civilians in Sabon Birni, Sokoto. In Benue State, herdsmen killed five persons in Logo and 10 in Guma on July 18. On July 20, herdsmen killed 13 also in Guma. Also, kidnappers abducted two in Toto, Nassarawa on July 10.x
In the Southern part of the country, there were also some incidents of killings. For instance, On July 13, gunmen killed three police officers and two civilians in Idemili North, Anambra.
On the same day, gunmen killed six soldiers in Uzo-Uwani, Enugu. Cultists killed two police officers and eight others in Awka, Anambra on July 15, while one Amotekun leader and three others were killed in Ibarapa North, Oyo, on July 16. On July 19, kidnappers abducted eight in Akuku-Toru, Rivers State, while pirates in Delta State killed a soldier on July 19.
However, concerned parents and stakeholders wonder what will likely become of a family, whose child is kidnapped by bandits or killed by unknown gunmen on his/her way to the orientation camp, as they journey through the night.
This happened on Wednesday night, when a vehicle transporting prospective corps members to camp was involved in a crash around Abuja . They were travelling in the night and the accident, according to NYSC, in a terse statement, occured at 2:00am. What a way to reward their four years of struggle!
MEANWHILE, concerned parents have continued to fault NYSC’s decision, wondering why innocent children should be deployed to volatile states at such short notice and at this time, considering the high rate of insecurity in the country.
Besides, they lamented that with increased poverty and deplorable economic situation in the country, raising funds for their wards at such short notice to embark on the trip is a big challenge.
A parent, Johnson Elvis, said: “You would recall that a corps member, Miss Elechi Chinyerum, 27, died five days after arriving at Bayelsa orientation camp, apparently due to exhaustion. Also, Ukeme Monday, a corps member who was deployed to Zamfara State, died on his way to camp in an auto-crash.
But as opposition mounted over the relevance of the scheme, the Director-General of NYSC, Brig. General Shuaib Ibrahim, has allayed fears over security of corps members.
Ibrahim said the council has partnered with security agencies on the safety of corps members. On complaints of short notice, the NYSC Chief wondered why parents are complaining, saying past corps members were mobilised within a spate of two to three days.
The agency, in the tips rolled out for newly deployed corps members, on its official Facebook page, said they must report at the camp within the scheduled reporting date. It also directed corps members not travel at night, and when necessary, should break their journey.
The agency warned that where corps members refused to report to camp, such persons would not be automatically revalidated to the next stream.
Unfortunately, the National Assembly that should take decision to review the NYSC Act are blowing hot and cold. Each time the matter is brought before them, they blow hot only to turn lukewarm.